Help! I’m a Vegan at a Backyard Cookout. What Can I Eat?

I live in Texas, where the weather changes every few days.  Today, for instance, it was in the 80’s; tomorrow, the high is only supposed to be in the low 50’s.  We flip flop from freezing to beautiful and back in a whip-lash fashion.

During one of these roller coaster weather patterns, when it was in the 80’s, my family went to the lake with some friends from our church.  It actually got so warm that day that our friends turned on their A/C in the camper after we all began sweating!

As per any camping trip, a cook-out ensued.  *cue dramatic music*

I actually knew what the group was doing for dinner (hamburgers and hotdogs), and I came prepared.  But I realized that a backyard cookout/camping trip chuckwagon/barbecue was never going to be easy as long as I am eating a plant-based diet, since nearly every outdoor eating experience seems to revolve around meat.

As I said, I came prepared; armed with Cowboy Caviar (a bean/raw vegetable salad marinated in Italian dressing) and homemade fresh salsa with tortilla chips, my family and I had the opportunity to share a meal AND eat well.  I’m not going to lie – I was a little grossed out when a plate went by with not one but TWO bacon cheeseburgers and homemade potato chips (deep fried in oil and doused with seasoned salt).  Not grossed out because it came from animals, but because of how I would feel if I ate that.  I would feel bloated, gassy, and a little bit nauseated from all the oil (I have found when I eat fried foods, or even popcorn cooked in oil, I get that same nauseous feeling).

But I was happy when I saw others putting salsa and the fresh guacamole someone brought onto their burgers.  At least that’s SOME improvement, right?! 🙂  And of course I beamed when someone asked who brought the delicious bean salad and who made the yummy salsa?  Score two points for Team Vegan!

As the days get longer and summer months draw near (hooray for DST, right?), our friends and families will want to eat al fresco.  So what’s a vegan going to do?

1.) Be prepared – bring your own protein.  Know in advance what’s on the menu.  If that’s not possible, ASSUME IT’S GOING TO BE HAMBURGERS AND HOTDOGS.  Bring your favorite broccoli recipe (broccoli has more protein in 100 calories than a steak), or black/pinto/kidney/soy bean recipe.  The Cowboy Caviar is awesome because it’s got 3 different kinds of beans and a myriad of vegetables, plus it’s light and refreshing in contrast to the barbecued, cooked, and otherwise charred-with-carcinogens food.  Just look up a recipe on your favorite browser.  You can put what you want in it – mine had black-eyed peas, black beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, corn, green, yellow, orange, and red pepper, red onion, cilantro, avocado, and a package of Good Seasons Italian seasoning made with white vinegar and EVOO.  SO ADDICTIVE!

2.) Don’t make a big deal out of it.  If you are new to eating a plant-based diet, you may want to shout it from the rooftops so everyone knows…however, that may alienate people or otherwise make them feel inferior.  You may get this reaction – “Oh, well SHE is too GOOD for OUR kind of food…” or something to that effect.  Just set your stuff out with the other food, fill your plate when it’s your turn, and be sure to thank the host/hostess for a generous spread.

3.) Accept offers with a thanks.  Remember that eating a meal together is more important than the food itself.  I admit, I ate a couple handfuls of those homemade potato chips that were deep-fried and covered in salt.  You know why?  Not because they would fuel my body in a positive way, but because it built the relationship with the person who made them.  It would have been rude to refuse them.  One piece of meat won’t wreck your diet.  It may not feel great on your system, but all things will pass.  🙂  So whenever possible, as long as it doesn’t violate your own conscience, eat what is set before you with thanks.  (I feel like we all need to go read 1 Corinthians 8 – the chapter about food sacrificed to idols!)

4.) Go for more of the same.  If the only option is lettuce, tomato, and onion as toppings for a hamburger, load up!  Make a salad out of it and keep eating vegetables until you feel full.

5.) Help your host/hostess think outside of the “hamburger and hotdog” box.  What about black bean burgers?  Tofu burgers?  Vegetable skewers?  A southwest style baked potato with black beans, salsa, and avocado is a viable option.

Knowing is half the battle.  If you have other tips for vegan eating as the temperatures and the barbecue grills start warming up, please share!  Let’s help each other make progress toward our good health goals.

Feeling Frazzled? Talk to Yourself

By now, you have probably figured out that life is a balancing act.  We all juggle the responsibilities of being adults, parents, spouses, colleagues, friends, siblings, etc. When I am needed in many different areas, I have discovered the best way for me to stay mentally healthy – balanced, so to speak:  I have a conversation with myself.

I know, it’s weird, right?!  But it’s not the sit-down, dialogue kind of conversation.  It’s just me and my computer, writing in my journal.

Journaling is my time to “catch up” with myself.  We catch up with friends over drinks, we catch up with our mom on the phone once a week, we catch up with our spouse at the end of a busy day, so why don’t we take time to catch up with ourselves?

Writing in my journal helps me voice concerns, doubts, worries, fears, joys, successes, failures, heartaches – in short, all of the emotions that would make me vulnerable if I mentioned them to someone else.

Writing down my thoughts helps me clarify them.

Writing in my journal provides a chance to look over a particular entry with another point of view.

Writing down my thoughts clears them out of my brain, where they take up precious real estate.  After I finish journaling, I usually have much more patience, better problem-solving skills, ability to handle stress, and a general feeling of peace that carries into all the other parts of my life.

So if you are feeling frazzled or pulled in a thousand directions and just can’t seem to stay balanced, try talking to yourself via journaling.  When you finish writing, take time to read what you just said.  Then enjoy the glow of peace that will radiate into all the other aspects of your life.

Good luck as you make progress toward your mental health goals!

Giving Back

On the morning radio show I listen to, the hosts were reading a list of 10 things you should do in your lifetime One was “give back.” The host who is known for enjoying food and restaurants asked if giving the carhop at Sonic an extra $5 bill counted as giving back…I don’t think that’s what it meant.

Recently, I had the privilege to organize meals for a young couple who just had their first baby. Dad is working 2 jobs and Mom is at home for now, but as you moms know, cooking is not high on the priority list for the week after you have given birth. Eating, yes, but cooking? No.

When I took the meal to them, they were so grateful. But really, I was grateful to them. See, when you truly give back, or give of yourself, the sacrifice that is necessary breaks down the dam holding back the showers of blessings that YOU receive. Their physical bodies may have been blessed by the food that I brought, but my spiritual body was blessed by bringing them the food. It’s just another one of God’s designs that we can’t comprehend until we try it. We have to put away our selfish desires and instead, put on compassion for others’ needs.

So find some way to give back today, and in doing so, you will be blessed.

~Ephesians 3:20-21

How Is Satan Attacking Your Family?

I recently sat in a Bible class where we discussed different weapons we have to fight temptation.  Our teacher mentioned how Satan throws “fiery darts” at us that not only hurt on impact, but the flames spread throughout our bodies.  Satan’s fiery dart for my family this time of year is busy-ness. 

Image photo by http://www.northjersey.com

Last Sunday, my oh-so-talented husband was gone from the house for 12 hours straight doing church- and music-related activities.  Then it’s back to work Monday-Wednesday, with a band concert thrown in there, and a trip out of town for three days, then a potluck at church on Sunday, followed by musical orchestra rehearsal, and then we get to Memorial Day, where he will have to mow the yard (he doesn’t know this is on his To Do list for that day!).  I’m sure your calendar is the same way – filled up with lots of good and productive things to do.  Are any of these things bad?  No, not inherently.   

However, they can become harmful, much as Satan’s fiery darts spread flames.  As I’ve learned from Dave Ramsey and our Financial Peace University material, if you spend money on ABC, you DON’T have money to spend on XYZ.  The same goes for time.  If you spend time away from home, you aren’t spending time at home.  Makes sense, right?

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV) says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

One of Satan’s most effective ways of winning the war between good and evil is to attack our families, breaking them down little by little.  Sometimes it’s a job loss, sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes it’s a devastating illness, sometimes it’s just never being together as a family.  We need to identify which dart he is throwing at our own families so we can defend ourselves against him. 

So once you identify the weakness, how do you ward off the “fiery darts?”  These are what I do to protect my marriage and my family:

1.) Schedule your “together time.”  Whether that is family time or husband-wife time, you need to keep that session intact, and it needs to happen every day (personally, I think you need both).  One baby-raising book I read recently said that Mommy and Daddy should have “Couch Time,” where they sit and talk to each other in a face-to-face conversation on the couch, before bedtime, where the kids can see.  Nothing should interrupt (phones, tv, kids) this sharing time.  This shows the children how important your marriage is, and how your spouse comes first, even before they do.

2.) Just say no.  There are so many wonderful opportunities for us to use our talents and gifts.  Sadly, Satan uses these (through guilt or other destructive emotions) to his advantage and our disadvantage.  Back to last Sunday, I think in hindsight, we should have said no to the things we had control over.

3.) Consider what you would give up to take on whatever is presented.  Is it worth giving up family time?  Is it worth neglecting your personal devotional time?  Is it worth skipping your exercise time?

4.) Pray for guidance.  Psalm 25:9 “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

5.) Forget about others’ expectations of you.  This is one of Satan’s most destructive tools for me, personally.  What will so-and-so think if I do this?  Or what will they think if I don’t do this?  You have to do what is best for you and for your family.

I’m no expert in family dynamics, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do want to share what we are doing and how we have been blessed.  Protect your family as you would protect your home.  Lock things out that need to stay out, and lock things in that need to stay in.  In doing so, God will bless you exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine.  – Ephesians 3:20-21

REPOST: You Deserve More Than Sundays

I want to share with you this blog post.  It’s so accurate…I wish I had written it myself!  It was originally posted here: http://jlgerhardt.tumblr.com/post/49353769068/you-deserve-more-than-sundays.

I’m a preacher’s wife, and to be honest, I don’t always love Sundays.

For one, I have to get the kids bathed and dressed and fed without help from Daddy who woke up before the sun. I get them dressed and braid their hair and haul them to the building thirty minutes before Bible class to make copies or talk to a deacon about something.

I walk the girls to their classes and teach my Bible class, which I love but which usually exhausts me. I meet up with Justin in a hall somewhere between class and worship and we smile at one another, and then we’re apart again until he slips into our pew halfway through the first song.

During worship I make “You’d better straighten up” faces at my daughters as I twist their arms until they “try” to sing. Sometimes this goes well, sometimes poorly. Sometimes it results in London singing very loudly when everyone else has stopped. Sometimes, like last week, I drag my youngest out of church during announcements as she screams “Don’t spank me!”

After church Justin talks to forty-two people and I find our kids and try to keep them from knocking over old people or screaming or otherwise terrorizing innocent church-goers. I talk to visitors, too: “It’s so nice to have you—LONDON, IF YOU DON”T KNOCK IT OFF I”M GOING TO TAKE YOU OUTSIDE AND—we really hope you’ll come back again soon.”

Usually Justin and I collapse on the couch around 2 pm. At that point, he’s been working for eight hours straight. Then, at 2:30, I head to a baby shower… 

Sundays are hard, and while I wish they weren’t, I’ve learned to find God in the difficulty—in the chaos and in snatches of stillness. I see God in the laughing faces as I drag Eve kicking up the aisle. I see God in my third-graders telling me kindness is “love in action” before I’ve even taught the lesson. I see Him in beautiful sermons and in the words of scripture on the screen and in the sometimes squawking voice of my daughter singing, “Holy, holy, holy…”

But if I only saw God on Sundays, on those long, hard days, I would not see enough. 

Praise God for Mondays. And Tuesdays…

Growing up I’d always been taught that Sundays were for “re-charging batteries,” for “re-connecting with the body,” for being “filled up” with Spirit and Word, a pep-talk to help us “make it through the week.” 

I saw us church attenders like cars at the gas station or like plugs in one giant power strip, guzzling energy in excess for the blackout days ahead. 

I came to church on Sunday mornings to get what I needed for the week, like a child on allowance day, pockets empty after six days of spending.

Sometimes I left the building feeling full, like I’d been really and truly fed. Most of the time I didn’t. Full or not, I almost always ran out of gas half way through the week. 

Looking back, I can see the problem: Sunday wasn’t enough. 

I look through the New Testament, through Acts and the epistles, and I don’t see a body of people lining up with cupped hands on Sunday mornings. Instead, I see people studying and seeking instruction every day of the week, people meeting to eat in one another’s houses every day, people who show up on Sunday not with an emptiness to be filled but with an overflow to be shared. 

In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul tries to help the church at Corinth figure out an orderly way to worship. He says, ”When you come together, each of you has a hymn,or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” He doesn’t say “Each of you should have a hymn, or a word of instruction…” He says they do. Full of the Spirit of God, these people came to “church” to share. 

That’s not always what we do. Too often we starve ourselves during the week, drag ourselves to church on Sunday morning, and, in our ravenous hunger, heap our expectations on teachers, elders, ministers, and friends. 

We complain when the preacher doesn’t provide a “well-rounded diet” or enough “meat.” He’s not “deep.”

We complain when people don’t stick around to talk to us after church. They’re not friendly.

We complain when we don’t see the elders on stage enough. They’re not “truly leading.”

We complain because Sunday is the be-all and end-all, and if it doesn’t happen on Sunday it’s probably not going to happen. 

Eesh. 

Sundays are beautiful days, and Sunday worship is a powerful thing, but let’s remember, it’s an hour-long thing, a tiny fraction of a single day, of which you will likely have tens of thousands. Sundays simply cannot bear the work of building a lasting and mature relationship with Christ and His people.

Your preacher cannot feed you into spiritual maturity.

Your worship leader cannot sing you into joy.

Your Bible class teacher cannot instruct you into righteousness. 

Your friends cannot cram the encouragement you need into a fifteen minute hello, goodbye.

Spiritual maturity happens…

When God’s people live together and learn together and laugh together—spending their days together.

When God’s children read their Bibles and talk to God directly, looking for Him and listening to Him on Mondays and Wednesdays and Saturday nights.

When we realize that being a Christian is about being with God. Every. Single. Moment.

If Sundays were all we had, I suppose we could make due. But we have so much more than Sunday.

Last week I held a friend’s newborn at her house while my husband cooked us dinner and her older kids played with mine in the next room. The next night I met with my small group and we talked for two hours until it was too late and all the bedtimes were shot and we didn’t care because the night had been so good. A day later, after I’d spent the morning reading about David and Joab and the redeeming love of God, Justin and I counseled a couple about to get married and celebrated with them the victory of purity. That night we met new church members and bonded over bourbon bread pudding with butterscotch. On Saturday we played soccer in the sun with missionaries from Australia while our daughters made pen pal plans despite not yet having learned to write.

And when Sunday came around, I appreciated it—even the dragging Eve down the aisle part. I learned and I worshipped and I encouraged and received encouragement. And all of it was a luxurious gift as I was already so, so full. 

Hungry

I’m writing this on the day before payday, eating a grilled cheese sandwich and celery with peanut butter.  It’s important you know that it’s the day before payday because usually the day before payday is bleak and dreary and void of good food.

That has been the case all week.

Or so I thought at the beginning of the week.

Last Thursday or so, Guitardude and I decided to “gamble” with the last bit of grocery money for the month.  We decided to NOT go get a week’s worth of groceries, but just buy what we needed to get us through and try to save that money.  (As it turns out, we needed it for gas money but that’s not important here.)

Image

So this week has been all about cleaning out the cabinet, fridge, and freezer.  Anything and everything was fair game.  Initially, I was grumpy because there wasn’t anything organized, but as the week went on, I began to enjoy the creativity that was forced upon us to make a meal of whatever we had.  It got me thinking about a book I read recently.

The book was called “The Storyteller,” by Jodi Picoult.  It was a story about a Jewish girl and her journey from freedom to Auschwitz – and beyond.  She survived horrible, terrible, unspeakable tragedies.  One of the scenes sticks in my mind vividly.  She described the march from one concentration camp to another – I forget the names – but on the march, in the cold, snowy winters of Germany, clothed in nothing more than a flour sack, and with nothing more to eat than a bowl of soup made from water and buttons, the soldiers would throw remnants of their own hearty meals into the campfires at night to watch the girls reach into the flames to try to get whatever they threw in there.  This was their entertainment!  She describes how desperate they were to find food, and some girls would get blisters and burns on their hands from the flames for one morsel of a potato…only to get an infection and die from lack of treatment.

As the “campers” were breaking down camp and putting out the fires, this Jewish girl would collect the ashes from the burned food that the soldiers had thrown into the fire.  She figured there was still some nourishment in the ashes, and stuck handfuls in her apron pocket to eat as they marched to their death.

What a terrible story!  As I read that book, I began to see food in a different way.  On a typical week, I “clean out the fridge” of any leftovers or half-used blocks of cream cheese or vegetables that have started to wilt or rot.  I usually do this the day before payday, when I go grocery shopping.  This week, however, I decided there would be no unnecessary waste.  No food would be thrown out simply because we didn’t like it or it went bad while we ate something else.

The result?  God provides exceedingly abundantly for his children.  We still have celery and peanut butter, a chunk of cheddar cheese, a whole head of red cabbage (I don’t know what to do with it, honestly!), and some leftover gumbo.  Oh, and some chicken in the freezer and a package of Ramen noodles.  And somehow, we have a can of sweet peas and a bag of frozen peas…and we both hate peas!  To that poor Jewish girl, this would be a feast!

Do I want to live like this all the time?  No, certainly not.  I need better nutrients than what I get from eating PB&J every day.  But am I hungry?  Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not ever, thanks be to God.  How blessed we are!  What a blessed country we live in, not to have to worry about where our next meal will come from.  How convenient it is to drive to the store – your CHOICE of grocery stores – to buy good looking fruits and vegetables, and meat that you know is safe to eat, and milk that you know is good to drink.

So the lesson I’ve learned from this week’s edition of “Get Creative In The Kitchen!” is to be thankful for WHATEVER God gives you, even if it is just a loaf of bread and a jar of jelly, and to remember those who are truly hungry.  I’ll leave you with this verse: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matthew 6:25-26 NIV

Ephesians 3:20-21 KJV: 

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.